Kosovo, North Macedonia, Via Dinarica

Up to Ljuboten at Šar planina

14 augustus 2016

Half day travelling by bus via Bajram Curri, Gjakovë and Pristinë took me to Skopje where I took a few days off hiking.

After buying resupplies and shiny new trailrunners, I just hung around the hostel relaxing or eating at one of the many restaurants.

An early morning bus brought me to the town of Tetovo, hoping for a connecting bus to the village of Vratnisa. Hoping, because I was not sure there would be one running. At the bus station they told me there’s no bus running, so I took a taxi to Vratnisa.

After having coffee and something the eat at the bakery the neighbor told me not to take this trail going up to Dom Ljuboten. It would be way too demanding, there’s sheep and shepherd dogs… He got me a bit annoyed, what does he know about me and my hiking skills? I get that people mean well by giving advice, but the advice comes from their point of reference, by only seeing me and not even asking me one question about who I am and what I’m about to do.

When I leave, which takes less energy than starting a discussion, searching for the easier route, I see I sign pointing the way I wanted the go and turn around. Again we get into a discussion. He really doesn’t want me to hike this trail and I don’t even understand why not. It’s marked, there’s even a proper waymarker. Now I really get grumpy. Again I decide for the easy option and I leave for the easy way up. Saying a polite thank you to the guy.

A bit upset with myself I find the trail and hike uphill. Why did I listen to this stranger? 

Trail up to Ljuboten

Just after a few km’s up to the mountain hut I cross a dirt road on which a Lada Niva just happens to drive by. The owner is Mitko and offers me a drive all the way up the hut. Mitko happens to be the warden! So I get driven uphill in a Lada Niva, sitting in it like a princess. Instantly my grumpiness is gone.

Shortly after we arrive at the hut there’s four young guys arriving. They are staying here today and tomorrow, they live close by but, and to my surprise, for three of them it’s the first time out in the mountains. Then a trailrunner arrives. He’s part of organizing a contest this weekend and he’s marking the route. When he hears about my plans he’s trying to talk me out of it. This trail is very hard, there’s big rocks laying on it, it’s not easy hiking, the weather is unpredictable, there’s no markings… I should go down and hike from Popovka Shapka, from there it’s OK.

Here we go again is what I’m thinking. I’m interested in what he knows about the trail and this area, but I would also like to make my own decision. I take what he tells seriously; there’s a storm coming. So today, even though it’s early, I stay at the hut and Mitko and the guys who are staying too take good care of me feeding me salad and Rakija.


The next morning I leave the Dom early with one of the guys to climb up Ljuboten. The others believe they’re not up to it and stay in bed. Today it’s cloudy so there’s mostly little or no view. Because my hike goes further after the top we take the steep route uphill. This route contains mostly gravel so it’s an interesting hike up.

After the top with no views because of the mist we part ways. My one-morning-hikerbuddy hikes the more relaxed trail back to the Dom and I slide downhill to the saddle where I left my backpack and to the Transversale; my hiking day has just begun!

Perspective: Ahead and down there #instagraphytk #perspective #horizon #mountains #wild #nature #hiking #sharmountains #sharplanina #vscomacedonia #rebornphoto #инстаграмџии #happyadventuring P.S.: This is the border (which somehow doesn’t exist lol) between Kosovo and Macedonia, seen from the Ljuboten peak (2498m).

Een foto die is geplaatst door Dragan (@eyes_as_lenses) op

With one of the coolest people I’ve met in the #mountains #hiking #sharmountain #sharplanina #ljuboten

Een foto die is geplaatst door Dragan (@eyes_as_lenses) op

About the Via Dinarica

Check this blog for more info about hiking the Via Dinarica (including GPS-tracks and waypoints).

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This blog has been written on trail and on a mobile phone.

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